Inhuman Swill : Page 41
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

R.I.P. Ryan Maguire's Ale House

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Fans of the monthly New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series in Manhattan are used to gathering for good food, good whiskey, and good beer at Ryan Maguire's Ale House, on Cliff Street near the South Street Seaport. Unfortunately, Ryan Maguire's was destroyed by a fire early this morning:

It's great that no one was hurt, but this is a real loss. It was a warm, welcoming place, and I always looked forward to heading there with Jim Freund and a big, interesting, varied crowd after readings while Laura and I still lived in New York. I'm glad I had a chance to go there one last time, in January, when Paul Witcover and I read together at NYRSF. RIP.

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Shamrock sharks

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Lest anyone unfamiliar with the phenomenon assume I am overstating the fanaticism of Shamrock Shake devotees, let me direct your attention to...

      ShamrockShake.com

...a message board for confirmed Shamrock Shake sightings around the country. Believe.

(One of the saddest recent reports from Illinois, echoing Laura's disappointment, reads: "got one with whipped cream...it was only half-full of the glorious green stuff...I was very sad.")

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Shamrock shuck

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Laura and I go to McDonald's together, on average, once a year. Like many of you, I'm sure, we've both been lovers of the Shamrock Shake since childhood. It was hard if not impossible to find a McDonald's in New York City that carried those minty cold treasures, so one of the upsides of moving to Chicago was the realization that the advent of the St. Patrick's season once again meant Shamrock Shakes within reach of our greedy little mitts.

Still, we didn't intend to embark on Shamrock Shake Quest 2010 this past Sunday afternoon. My plan was to dedicate the full day to a small freelance programming project I'm working on, but a minor eyeglass-frame emergency derailed that. (Turns out it screws with one's ability to effectively view through progressive lenses when one of your earpieces breaks off.) We rushed down to Lincoln Square to order a pair of replacement frames. It was only as we were returning home that Laura spied the happy gospel proclaimed from a McDonald's sign on Western Avenue.

"Shamrock Shakes are back!" she exclaimed.

"Shall we stop?" I asked.

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Upcoming readings

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I'll have more info as these events get closer, but I'm scheduled to participate in a couple of local readings coming up here in Chicago.

On Tuesday, March 2, I'll once again be part of Tuesday Funk at Hopleaf.

And on Monday, April 19, I'll make my second appearance in Essay Fiesta at The Book Cellar.

Mark your calendar. I hope to see you there!

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Tiny accomplishments

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I've been a fan of Roger Ebert's writing (as opposed to his television presence) since I first ran across it on the web, which was probably not long after the Chicago Sun-Times starting publishing his film reviews online. Which was a long time ago. As much as his insightful criticism, it was droll, tossed-off observations like this one (from his new review of Happy Tears, emphasis mine) that won me over:

[Happy Tears] takes on an eerie resonance with the performance by Rip Torn as the aging father. He was recently in the news for being arrested, at age 78, for breaking into a bank while intoxicated and carrying a firearm.

To be sure, it was late at night, he had apparently forgotten he had the firearm, and after all, the bank looked a lot like his house. Nor is senility his problem. He is now in rehab and I wish him good fortune because he is a fine actor. Ann Landers used to write about the danger signals of alcoholism. His arrest in the bank surely would be one of them. Still, to stir up such a scandal at 78 is perhaps even a tiny accomplishment, when so many his age are no longer physically able to break into banks.  [full review]

This is all by way of recommending not just his reviews and his blog, not just his continuous championing of liberalism and rational free thought, but also the new Esquire profile of Ebert, "The Essential Man," written by Chris Jones. I knew about his battles with cancer and his various surgeries, but had no idea of their extent or aftermath. Read it, and read also Ebert's own generous thoughts on the article.

I can't think of many writers so well-rounded as people, and so unendingly prolific, and that he continues to be so in the face of his health problems is not just an inspiration. It's a more than tiny accomplishment.

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The devil at the end of my bed

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I watched Paranormal Activity yesterday evening on DVD while waiting for Laura to get home from work. I found the movie deeply, thrillingly, and realistically frightening—not because I believe in ghosts or demons, but because it returned me to a time in my life when I did.

Between the ages of ten and sixteen or so, I experienced a few episodes of what I realize now must have been sleep paralysis. This occurs when the brain rouses from REM sleep but the body essentially remains asleep. You're fully awake and aware, but you can't move a muscle.

That's exactly what happened to me maybe half a dozen times that I remember. I would wake up in the darkness of my bedroom unable to move, terrified by the certain convinction that the Devil himself was holding me immobile, and that he was going to kill me. I would struggle to move for what seemed like an hour, to no avail. I would struggle to form words, to shout for help, also to no avail. I would struggle not to fall back to sleep, because I knew if I fell asleep I would die. I would silently pray to God for deliverance from my assailant, deliverance that only came when I did fall back into unwilling unconsciousness.

On one very memorable occasion, when I was an older teenager, this happened on a visit to my uncle's house in Los Angeles, while I was cocooned in sleeping bag on his living room floor. My father was in a sleeping bag not six feet away, but I couldn't make the tiniest peep to wake him up so he could save me.

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Occasionally I have vivid nightmares that leave me afraid to go back to sleep. (Probably PTSD from the LDS years.) The night before last, I had the worst I'd had in some time. It was one of those dreams that seems, while it's happening, to go on for weeks or years. It was also populated by a large cast of my friends—except that, in the way of dreams, none of these friends was anyone I recognized from real life.

These dozen or so friends and I were living on or visiting a subtropical island or peninsula of some sort. We were having a grand time doing incomprehensible things until a giant storm brought flooding. I climbed up a high stepladder to get out of the rushing water. One of my friends followed me up the ladder. I don't know if he was pulling me off or if he was going to make the ladder tip over or if I was just selfish or what, but I kicked him in the face until he fell off the ladder. The swirling water carried him away.

Soon enough things were sunny and dry again, and we were all living in a white multistoried house or possibly a beached yacht. All of us were having a grand time—all of us but our missing friend, of course. He turned up before long, though, not dead and hellbent on killing me for kicking him off the ladder. My other friends hid me downstairs in the house or boat, keeping a lookout from the upper stories.

Eventually, one of my friends came downstairs and told me the coast was clear. In a few minutes it would be time for me to meet the rest of the group out front and make my escape. He went back upstairs, and at the appointed time I slipped out of the house to the rendezvous point outside.

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Book launch party tonight!

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Flowers for the grave (um, the one in the book)
Just a quick reminder of my book launch party for Cast a Cold Eye, this evening in Chicago. All the event details are here:

http://tinyurl.com/coldeyeparty

Hope to see you there. The nice checkout women at Trader Joe's gave me free flowers for it this morning (I was there buying lots of wine), and it would be a shame for the bouquet to go unappreciated!

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Hi, NYC friends! Yes, it's a last-minute surprise to me too, but I'll be reading with the excellent Paul Witcover THIS COMING TUESDAY EVENING, January 5th, as part of the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series at the South Street Seaport Museum. Doors open 6:30 pm, readings begin 7:00 pm. Suggested donation is $5. See below for all the details, and we hope to see you there.

Please note, if you haven't been to a NYRSF reading at the Seaport lately, that the location is slightly different than it used to be....

--> The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings
and the
South Street Seaport Museum present <--

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The problem isn't that Luke sees dead people. The problem is that dead people see Luke.

CAST A COLD EYE BOOK RELEASE PARTY
w/William Shunn
Friday, January 8, 2010
7:00 to 9:00 pm

Time and Again
1239 W. Cortland St.
Chicago, IL 60614
site | map

Come out to Time and Again in Chicago to celebrate the hardcover release of Derryl Murphy & William Shunn's new novella Cast a Cold Eye! Mingle with fellow book lovers, browse unique treasures from the era of the story in an elegant setting, and sit back with a glass of wine while William Shunn reads chilling selections from the book. (Readings begin at 7:30 pm.)

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
that even a
missionary
could afford.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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